The AcademyMature

The week leading up to when Tobias would say farewell to his few friends, and his family and go away to be a killer seemed to be going slow and fast at the same time. Tobias spent days flicking between excitement and anxiety. Sometimes he couldn’t wait to go to the academy, somewhere new, where he would learn new things and maybe have fun. But then he remembered what the academy was about, and that while he would learn things, it would not be fun. Learning how to kill somebody doesn’t seem like something that would be classed as fun by most sane people. Another thought struck him, would he be the only person there? Would there be other kids his age? Tobias felt apprehensive, if there were others, well, there’s bound to be competition, and maybe teamwork. Tobias preferred to work alone, he cringed as he realised this was probably a key quality in being an assassin; they don’t tend to work successfully in teams. Tobias paid less attention in class, because he spent his lessons thinking about what kinds of drills he’d be put through, no doubt there was long distance running involved. Tobias almost groaned at the idea. An assassin… Tobias the assassin. It didn’t sound right; perhaps he’d be given a codename? He wondered if he could choose his own, or if he’d be given one. He just hoped he wouldn’t run into Harrier, a shiver went down his spine at the thought, and he felt cold. The man scared him, he was so cold and emotionless, and trying to read his thoughts through his expression was like trying to read the emotions of a wall. Tobias didn’t want to end up like that. At the same time, he figured he was already halfway there, no one could tell when he was angry, because his expression just went stony. But Harrier had read him so easily.

Finally, it was Saturday the 26th. Tobias would be leaving in less than 24 hours. He was required to be at the academy early in the morning, 7:30am to be exact. He and his parents would have to leave the house at 4:30am to get to the academy. Tobias’s dad had complained about the time, and his mother did too, but to a lesser extent.
‘Why do we have to be there so early?’ his dad groaned
‘I have no idea, maybe there’s a lot of people?’ Tobias suggested, ‘it’d take a while to process everyone.’
‘Maybe.’ His mum said, ‘we better have an early night tonight.’
It was 4pm when Tobias finished packing, he hadn’t been told what to bring, so he’d packed about ten sets of clothing and the basics, like toothbrush and hairbrush. He also packed a few books, though he doubted he’d have a chance to read them. Tobias hoped he wasn’t the only one that had packed so much. Dinner (takeaways) was bought at 5:30pm, and Tobias had turned in for the night at 7pm, this time he closed his door. He feared that he would need as much sleep as possible, because he had a funny feeling that he wouldn’t be sleeping well for the next month or so.
Perhaps that started early, because Tobias couldn’t sleep. It evaded him like a cockroach evading a person’s foot. He got up, picked a book from his bookcase and went back to bed. He couldn’t concentrate on it, he kept reading the same line over and over, and he found himself thinking about scenarios where he’d have to kill people with a gun or knife. Or even his own bare hands. Then more questions whirled around in his mind, like would he have a single instructor, or would there be many, one teaching a different thing? He didn’t see how it could take up to a year to learn all of the stuff he needed. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to finish there, because wouldn’t he then be in the business to be hired to kill some random person for large quantities of money. It hadn’t occurred to Tobias that he would end up being in this for life. As far as he knew, assassins only retired when they died.

The car ride took two and a half hours; Tobias had sat in the back seat, staring out the window, dread and anticipation swirling in his stomach. Just as he had thought, the academy was in the middle of a massive field, bordering an equally massive forest near some mountain ranges. A beautiful place, if one disregarded the fact that it was a facility for training assassins.
'Wow, look at this place!' Tobias's mum gasped, 'it's absolutely gorgeous!' the academy itself was quite handsome, a mix between an old two-story castle with roofless turrets here and there, and a turret sticking up in the middle of the field dotted with ruins. Clearly the castle had been there for a long time, and parts of it had collapsed, leaving the two-story section. The castle was covered in some kind of creeper plant, and the fence surrounding the castle, too. It was as if nature had claimed the human architecture. Tobias carried his weighted bag to the door, his parents flanked him. He approached the place with apprehension and excitement. Some small instinct told him to look up, he obeyed, and saw the silhouette of a person high above on the castle roof, it disappeared in a heartbeat, and Tobias wasn't even sure that he'd seen it. The doors were made of heavy wood and reinforced steel. His dad pulled the door open and Tobias stepped through. It was a strangely ordinary and modern sight, not befitting of the ancient structure that it was. A wide, tapering staircase led the way up to the second floor, where a corridor led off to unknown places. There were several halls webbing off the main room, and several doors with no hallway. It was very modern; a polished, dark hardwood floor with one massive circular rug that bore the crest and name of the academy covered most of the floor of the main hall. There was a dark coloured material that covered the stairs leading up, too.
To Tobias, the place felt fake, he had no time to deliberate, though, as a man suddenly opened a door and came shuffling out, he was quite chubby, though there was definite muscle too.
'The Bothrop family!' he shouted merrily, his voice didn't echo like Tobias had expected.
'I'm Sam!' he said, shaking both parents hands vigorously, and taking Tobias's last, almost wrenching his arm out of its socket.
'Leave your bags here, and I'll put them in your new room, the others are waiting just through that door!' Sam said in one big breath. His wobbly cheeks were red with lack of breath. Tobias reluctantly parted with his bag and led his parents through the door that Sam had come through.
The Bothrop family stepped into the room, it was a large theatre-type room, except all seats were on one level, and the stage was up high. There were small groups dotted here and there on the seats, families whose children were about to learn how to become killers. Tobias's eyes drifted up to the stage, two men were standing close together, one was bent over a laptop while the other stood straight, his hands loosely clasped behind his back, watching the screen. There was something familiar about the posture. The man standing up felt Tobias's eyes on him and looked up. Even though he was too far away for Tobias to see clearly, he knew that the man would have cold, pale blue eyes devoid of emotion. And his name was Harrier.
Tobias felt a familiar sharp chill that ran down his spine like a knife every time the man laid eyes on him. Harrier looked back at the computer.
'Let’s go sit down somewhere,' Tobias's dad murmured. The family of three shuffled onward and sat down three rows from the front. Tobias's eyes kept drifting up to where Harrier was standing; he could see him much clearer now. He was wearing the same style of pants as he had when they first met. But he was wearing a black t-shirt; the sleeves came down to mid bicep, showing off his thin but muscular pale arms that were three times stronger than they looked. Tobias had personal experience. The pinprick on his collarbone itched a little. The man bent over the computer had short dark brown hair and a slightly tanned face, illuminated by the computer screen. He was wearing semi-formal clothing, nothing too serious.
Tobias looked around the room, shaped like a quarter of a circle. The lights were a dim glow, casting an attractive warm hue on everything and everyone.
After what seemed like a couple of hours, and Tobias was starting to fall asleep, the man who was not Harrier clapped his hands loudly, it sounded was amplified in the empty space of the theatre, and everyone sitting down jumped.
'Okay, can I please ask the parents to follow Mrs. Knight out into the main hall for a grand tour,' the man spoke cheerily, but with an air of command, he pointed with one hand to a lady of average height and dark brown hair who had just entered the room, 'while I speak to the students about some top secret information.' the man laughed heartily and the parents all chuckled. Tobias didn't, and he noticed none of the other students did, either. The parents filed out and the door was closed behind them, Harrier stood in front of it, his stance relaxed. Tobias hadn't noticed him leave the stage.
'Now, everyone come up to the front row,' the man on the stage dropped his cheery voice. Tobias clambered out of the third row and followed several students to the front, a quick count once he had sat down told him there was merely 20 students, 15 male, five female. The size of a small class.
'You all know what you're getting into, and I'm very glad that none of you refused the application.' he said, 'you were chosen because you showed us one or more skills that are required for this line of work, skills that cannot be learned, they are instincts in the best candidates, and can only be sharpened in those who have them.'
V.I.P.E.R.S stands for Vigilance, Intelligence, Prowess, weapons, Reflexes and Stealth. They are all things that you will need in order to succeed in any mission.' the man paused to let it sink in.
'you have all been tested in different ways, tell me how.'
The room was silent until a boy spoke up,
'you had us followed?' he said, his voice sounded weak and shaky in the large room.
'Correct,' the man said, 'each of you was followed by one or two people, those who didn't notice are not here with us. There were two main reactions we were looking for, one was for you to hide in a crowd and lose your followers,'
Tobias nodded slightly to himself,
'the other reaction was to duck into an alley or building and disappear. All of you did one of those two things. It is the correct thing to do if you are being pursued by an enemy whose numbers you are unsure of.' the man said, nodding in approval.
'The second test?' he prompted,
At first no one spoke, Tobias spoke,
'the word in the smoke?' he said
'yes, only five of you reported seeing the word in the smoke, it tested your ability to notice something quickly, only two of you caught what the words were. What's the next test?'
'The body of a dead spy being strung outside your window?' Tobias spoke again. There were gasps and horrified faces turned towards him, he frowned.
'You were visited by Harrier, it's his own personal test, Tobias.' the man half-smiled. He found it amusing.
'You all failed to throw off your attacker in the dark after a phone call, as a consequence, you ended up feeling like crap for hours after you woke up.' the man said, the other tests were done over the last few months, or observed in school. Others were being monitored but reacted to one or two tests in a way we didn't want, so we ceased testing them.'
Now! Over the next months, you will endure grueling exercises, long lessons, and possibly little sleep. You will have a chance to freely explore the place once you're settled in your rooms, but heed my warning, stay on guard. You never know what's around the corner or behind the door.' he said ominously. 'If a door is locked, it is for a reason. There are fifty highly trained assassins in this building at any one time, Harrier over there could take you all out by himself with no weapons.' he pointed to the stony faced assassin in front of the door at the back of the theatre. Everyone turned in their seats to look at him, Tobias felt relieved when he could finally turn to look at him, he hated the fact he had to turn his back on such a dangerous person.
'Officially, your training starts now and will not cease until you have passed sufficiently, you never know when that might be. Upon passing, you will be selected by one of the assassins here, and he or she will be your handler from then until they think you are fit to “go into business” on your own.'
'In fact, your first mission is to find your rooms, there are two beds in each room, on one of those beds will be your belongings, on the other bed will be your roommates belongings.'
Tobias assumed that they were now dismissed. The others assumed that too, because they stood and began to make their way out, Tobias followed. Their parents were waiting outside, Tobias's mum beamed at him,
'you're going to have so much fun!' his mum said, she could hardly contain herself, 'the place is amazing! You should see the art hall!'
There's an art hall? Tobias thought skeptically.
Of course there is, this part of the academy is a front.
'Well, we're going on the tour now, you guys might as well head off home, I'll ring you when I can.' Tobias forced a smile; he didn't know whether he'd be allowed to talk to his parents whenever he wished. The other students were dismissing their parents, too. Tobias's parents left after smothering him in hugs and kisses.
'I love you so much, Toby!' his mum said whole-heartedly, he swore he could see tears in her eyes. His dad rolled his eyes at Tobias from behind his mum’s back, he was blinking rapidly too.
'Mum, you're acting like you'll never see me again.' Tobias sighed, then realised that he might not see her again, depending on the rules of the academy, ‘I’ll probably be back home before you know it.’ He smiled
His parents stuck around for a little while longer, and they left after his dad gave him an awkward hug. Tobias felt tingly when they left; he had to find his room. The other students were slowly managing to get rid of their parents, Tobias took the opportunity to slip down one of the first floor halls, something told him to take that route. The halls were brightly lit, but there were no doors and no windows, the hallway was L-shaped, it went straight for about 50 meters and then turned sharply right. Tobias followed the hall confidently. He came to two sets of stairs, one heading up into a dark hall that ran straight forward, one heading down into a brightly lit hall that veered to the left. Tobias took the stairs up. Once his shoes hit the plush carpet, his footsteps were absolutely stifled. Tobias slowed down and breathed deeply through his mouth, quieting his breath, he did it without thinking. He crept through the hall, even though he probably didn’t need to, he felt as though he should, the man’s voice from the theatre echoed in his mind ‘always be on guard.’  Tobias would live by those words from now on. Fifty assassins in this place, and he had no idea how big the place was. What were his chances of running into one of them, more specifically, what were his chances of running into a certain assassin?
The hallway seemed to go on forever. Finally, he found a door on the left side of the hall, he grasped the knob and opened the door; a bathroom. It had seven large showers, and a bathtub set in one corner. He figured he must be close, closing the door; he carried on, and soon came to a fork in the hall. Both left and right corridors were brightly lit and had doors spaced evenly on either side. Tobias took the corridor on the left and opened the first door; there were two simple single beds, one on either side of the room. On the beds were bags, neither of them were Tobias’s.He went on to the next door, with the same result.
And the next.
And the next.
After trying five doors, he came to a sixth, the last one on the left corridor, right at the end, several meters from the fifth door. Looking out of that room would give the occupants a full view of both left and right corridors.
He opened the sixth door, and peered in, he immediately knew it wasn’t a student room, since although the room was quite big, there was only one bed, and there were no bags on it. There was also a door that most likely led to a bathroom. Someone most likely occupied this room, it was tidy, but had telltale signs that it had been lived in. the bathroom door suddenly opened and Tobias ducked out of the room quickly, closing the door a bit too rough. He cringed and for some reason sprinted all the way back down the hallway, the plush carpet still managed to muffle his footsteps. He darted around the corner, where he flattened his back against the wall.
What are you doing, Tobias? He asked himself; he shook his head and decided to make it look like he’d just come down the hall to where the two corridors branched off. As he travelled down the right-handed corridor this time, he was aware of being watched, he didn’t turn around. He didn’t want to know whose room he’d just invaded.
This time, Tobias found his room, three doors down, and on the left side of the corridor. His room wasn’t a simple square like the others, instead it was a very short L shape, and Tobias’s bed was just around the corner, hidden from the door. Tobias was just fine with that, but on the other hand, he wouldn’t know who was entering the room. Tobias decided to unpack a book and lie on his new bed, it had a dark red duvet – his favorite colour, and a white pillow with sheets of the same shade. His roommate’s bed had a dark green duvet. It was 9am, how had it been so long already?! It took about ten minutes until Tobias heard others outside in the halls, and it was another five minutes until his door opened and a boy walked in, he went to his bed and belongings,
‘yesss!’ he hissed triumphantly. He was strongly built, average height, just a little shorter than Tobias, and had black, tidy hair.
‘Hey,’ Tobias said, the boy jumped and span around, grasping at his chest, his dark blue eyes were wide.
‘My god, man, you almost gave me a heart attack!’ he groaned, ‘with all these assassins running around the place, I keep thinking one of them is going to attack me!’
‘I know what you mean,’ Tobias said sympathetically, ‘I walked into the room at the end of the left corridor, it turns out it’s some assassin’s room. He started coming out of the bathroom, I closed the door and bailed.’
The boy let out a hearty laugh, his shoulders shaking, Tobias suspected the laugh was partially because of nerves.
‘I’m Gordon by the way, Gordon Harrison.’ The boy said, holding out a large hand to Tobias. He sat up and took it, the shake was nowhere near as joint-threatening as Sam’s handshake had been.
‘I’m Tobias Bothrop.’ Tobias said, they ended the handshake and Gordon looked back at his bed, shoving his hands in his pockets, he sat down.
‘Bothrop, eh?’ Gordon grinned, ‘suitable last name for a place with the name vipers, isn’t it?’
‘Yeah,’ Tobias chuckled, ‘I think my ancestors were probably snake-mad.’
Tobias’s last name was the word for a genus of venomous snakes, commonly called vipers, pitvipers or lanceheads.
‘So, what are you in here for?’ Gordon asked, ‘you were the one who got the dead body, right?’
‘Yeah, he was a spy that Harrier killed when he was scoping out my place,’ Tobias said, ‘I’ll tell you what, it’s downright scary having someone in your house when you’re alone just coming home from school.’
‘I know how you feel,’ Gordon snorted, ‘I heard a sound and dismissed it. Next time I’ll be sure to check out every noise.’
‘Yeah, same.’ Tobias said, ‘so how old are you?’ he asked
‘oh, I’m turning 17 in five days,’ Gordon said, ‘what about you?’
‘I turn 17 in December.’ Tobias replied.
‘What do you reckon we do now?’ Gordon asked, he was sitting cross-legged on his bed, his back against the wall. Tobias peered out the decent sized window that was between the two beds. Anyone looking through the window wouldn’t be able to see either of the boys, no matter what angle they were looking in.
‘I dunno,’ he murmured, out the window, he could see down into the field bordering the forest, so he was at the back of the castle. He saw a figure dressed in black jogging into the forest.

The End

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